Above: Fanny Ara
Friday November 16, 2012 - The Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise this year honors foreign-born dance professionals working in the USA. The current winner is Michel Kouakou from the Ivory Coast; he will have his own evening at Joyce SoHo on November 17th, which unfortunately I cannot attend. Tonight the four "runners-up" presented their work at the Mercer Street venue.
Any day that we fall in love is a good day; it doesn't matter whether the object of our adoration is a boy from far away whose face we saw on a website or a dancer or singer who moves and touches us with their beauty and talent. My newest love is Fanny Ara, a gorgeous Flamenco artist who opened the evening with a pair of resplendant solos that literally made my heart race. Her first solo Romance was a slow and very personal contemporary 'echo' of the Flamenco style: I immediately fell under her spell - so alluring, so poised and self-confident, even in the dance's most reflective nuances. Then a vivid pure Flamenco solo, Soler, in which the captivating expressive qualities of Fanny's upper body, arms and hands - even her neck - mesmerized us while her footwork dazzled both the eye and the ear. Guitarist Jason MacGuire provided fabulously colorful playing in both works, joined in Soler by the vocalist Jose Cortes, whose slightly raspy quality had its own sexual edge. In the course of her 15-minute performance, Fanny Ara soared into the upper-most echelon of dance artists I have witnessed over the years.
My friend Tom and I enthused over Fanny's dancing while the stagehands took up the special flooring. Tom was just as thrilled by what we'd seen as I was.
Two works by the Vietnamese-born choreographer Thang Dao followed: a large ensemble piece called S.O.S. is danced to a dynamic pop/rock song (Life Is A Pigsty by Morrissey) and a more refined, narrative work LENORE inspired by Edgar Allen Poe. In both pieces, Thang Dao showed fine craftsmanship and musicality. In S.O.S. there was a restless energy and much fast-paced partnering, with solo passages woven in. The dancers - and I am always happy to find dancers I know on any stage (Chris Bloom, Aaron Atkins and Virgina Horne were among Thang Dao's ensemble) - kept the eye darting about the space, trying to take it all in. In the more aptly poetic LENORE, a mirage-like tracery of Bartok underpinned Basil Rathbone's reading of The Raven, the poet in his white nightshirt is haunted by a trio of ravens and the endless intoning of 'the word that was spoken': Nevermore.
From Scandanavia, the cool beauty of Pontus Lidberg (above, Nir Arieli photo) seemed the external masque of a man with a secret passion. From his WITHIN (Laybrinth Within) Pontus danced the opening solo which we'd just seen a few days ago when MORPHOSES premiered the dance/film masterpiece at the bigger Joyce. This visual poem evolves into a filmed passage of Pontus in a forest or standing on a lonely beach. The solo works well as a free-standing evocation of the longer work. And it's a tremendous pleasure to watch Pontus Lidberg dance.
Of the evening's final work, a deadly dull and painfully protracted food fight, I'm not naming names. It simply reminded me of a conversation that Woody Allen has with his wife in the film CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. Urged to abandon his pathetic aspirations as a documentary film-maker, Woody reminds his wife: "Hey, I won Honorable Mention at that film competition last year!" to which she coolly replies: "Everyone who entered won Honorable Mention!"